By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
A first-half double from Marko Arnautovic inspired Stoke to a convincing 2-0 win over Manchester City on Saturday afternoon.
Arnautovic and his forward colleagues Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan Krkic tore City’s defence apart as the visitors once again struggled without the injured Vincent Kompany.
It was City’s fourth Premier League defeat of the season and their second in their last three matches in the competition, following the 4-1 mauling at the hands of Liverpool a fortnight ago.
Manuel Pellegrini’s team sit at the Premier League summit before the remaining weekend fixtures were due to be played but the manner of the defeat once again called into question their status as title favourites.
Arnautovic scored twice in the opening 15 minutes and was only denied a hat-trick by the post and a string of excellent Joe Hart saves.
Former Bayern Munich star Shaqiri set up both goals, including an outstanding dribble before teeing up Arnautovic for the opener, and was given a standing ovation when he was substituted late in the second half, as was the equally impressive Bojan.
By contrast, City’s leading lights struggled, to highlight the team’s weaknesses without Kompany, Yaya Toure and leading scorer Sergio Aguero, who missed his second consecutive match.